According to this article by Mediatrackers of Wisconsin, there were an alarming 75 structurally deficient National Highway System bridges in Wisconsin in 2012, with only four of them being replaced, according to the Federal Highway Administration. The article pegs the estimated cost to replace all of the aging bridges at $218 million.
But who is responsible for this?
While the Wisconsin DOT has frontline responsibility for roads and highway infrastructure, federal transportation policy dictates how state transportation officials spend federal highway aid. Right now, the federal highway trust fund is facing a serious cash shortfall.
OK, so the federal government is broke. We get that. There's a $58 billion shortage in the federal transportation fund alone. However, the federal government does NOT dictate how state collections are spent. That spending is controlled by the state legislature with the consent of the governor. Surplus anyone?
Yes, strangely absent from Mediatrackers storyline was any mention of the state's nearly one billion dollar budget surplus that Walker and state republicans repeatedly take credit for. Instead, Mediatrackers blames federal government spending "mandates" on bike lanes and pedestrian paths for the shortfall - this despite acknowledging that the state owns responsibility for the condition of its bridges.
To help champion their anti-mandate meme, Mediatrackers doesn't have to dig too deep to find a few willing saps...
Nygren said that state officials would like to see the federal government ease up on some of the restrictions that currently accompany federal highway aid dollars. “If the federal government eased mandates on uses of federal funds for transportation, Wisconsin could improve our infrastructure and meet growing demands of our economy and motorists.”
Why would state republicans suddenly improve our infrastructure, "if the federal government eased mandates," when they shirked that responsibility when they had a surplus?
Without mandates, a governor could take federal money earmarked for troubled homeowners facing foreclosure and use it instead to balance the state budget ...and what governor would do such a horrible thing to their people?
Without a mandate, a state legislature could accept federal money for bridge repair, but use it to fund tax cuts like they did when they had a state surplus. God forbid ...what legislature would put so many people at risk just for an election year talking point? Not ours ...nooooo.
They are clowns. But let's hope this does not end in tragedy. For our sake.